Away from the political violence and killings that have plagued Egypt for much of this summer, events may just have conspired to see the country’s economy hit on a gold mine.

The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller container ship passed through the Suez Canal in August on its maiden voyage from South Korea to Denmark, marking a potentially revolutionary new stage for international shipping.

Dozens of ships pass through the 193km canal every day, but the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller is different: it can transport a massive 18,000 20-foot (TEU) containers – over 2,000 more than the next largest container vessel.

This new generation of giant container ships means that for the growing Asia-Europe shipping route, the Suez Canal will play a major new role. Maersk has 19 more of these beasts on order from Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co. Ltd, all of which are expected to be ready for the open seas by 2015.

But what makes the Suez Canal even more crucial is that as more such ships come online it will make more sense for shipping from Asia to North America’s eastern seaboard – lucrative ports such as New York/New Jersey, Savannah and Charleston – to pass through Suez and not the Panama Canal.

This could transform the Suez Canal into the world’s most important passage for global trade and see it become the busiest and most strategic transport route on the planet.

In this month’s edition of The Middle East Magazine, Stephen Starr reports on the increasing importance of the Suez Canal.

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